Sunday, March 27, 2011

March Madness Eclectic Mix of B-Ball and Wine Tasting

Get-together to watch March Madness NCAA B-Ball and Taste Some Wine

Like the NCAA tourney, an eclectic mix not normally seen together - some were big and powerful, some were legends, some unknowns, some over-achievers, and a cinderella.

2007 cc: Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Second time tasted and consistent notes - a bit tart and hard on initial opening - much softer and more approachable the next day. Full bodied - dark garnet color. Complex, slightly restrained blackberry fruits, spice, layer of cassis, hint of cedar with tones of mocha on a full lingering soft tannin finish.
RM 91 points.


Muddy Water Waipara, New Zealand Pinot Noir 2008

Ruby-colored, light medium bodied, bright forward medley of sweet tangy fruits - cherry, wild strawberry, plum, spice and dusty rose flavours with soft silky tannin on a short finish.
RM 88 points

Marquis Philips Southeast Australia Shiraz 2000
In a blind tasting this would pass as a southern Rhone - Aromas and taste of firm forward rich very ripe black raspberry, almost raisin and fig give way to intense pepper and anise finish. 
RM 87 points 


Piedra Hill Vineyard Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2004

Dark garnet color - medium-full bodied. Full forward ripe black fruits - black berry, black cherry, almost raisiny, hints of anise and a layer of spice on a full firm lingering tannin finish.
RM 89 points.


Pope Valley Winery Napa Valley Eakle Ranch Merlot 2005

From the base of the rear of Howell Mountain. Medium bodied - dark garnet color - black licorice, anise, leather and a hint of smoke overtake the black berry and black cherry fruits and spice. RM 86 points.

Interesting selection brought by Bill & Beth - namesake to Beth's Pope family heritage with a connection in her past somewhere. Notably, she also was championing the support for the Kentucky Wildcats who advanced to the Final Four over Bill's favored North Carolina Tar Heels.

Linda and I, and Bob are all supporting our Hoosier heritage favorite Butler Bulldogs with Gloria lending encouraging support to keep family unity. Onward!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Rick's Tasting Journal - Muddy Water Waipara, New Zealand Pinot Noir 2008

Rick's Tasting Journal - Muddy Water Waipara, New Zealand Pinot Noir 2008

Ruby-colored, light medium bodied, bright forward medley of sweet tangy fruits - cherry, wild strawberry, plum, spice and dusty rose flavours with soft silky tannin on a short finish. RM 88 points.

Great value pinot noir. 

Muddy Water Waipara New Zealand Pinot Noir 2008

Friday, March 25, 2011

Tasting Journal - Northstar Columbia Valley Merlot 2006 - Elisabeth Chambellan Vielles Vignes Chateauneuf-Du-Pape 2007

Northstar Columbia Valley Merlot 2006 
Medium to full-bodied, dark garnet color - forward fruit, complex but polished for easy pleasant drinking - rich concentrated fruit flavors of black raspberry, blackberry, hints of black cherry and plum with tones of spicy clove, cinnamon cigar box and a hint of black chocolate on the nicely balanced moderate silky tannin finish. This is the most flavorful and polished Northstar in many years, reminiscent of the mid-nineties. RM 91 Points. 

The 2006 Merlot Columbia Valley is 76% Merlot, 19% Cabernet Sauvignon, and the balance Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot - aged in French and American oak, 65% new, for 18 months. The fruit was sourced from 14 different vineyards.
Tasted at Petits Plats at Woodley Park in Washington D.C. w/ George N - a perfect complement to the beef borgogne and the dark chocolate supreme. Fantastic cozy atmosphere, best foie gras ever, wonderful chocolate desert, great value authentic country French dining.
Northstar Columbia Valley Merlot 2006
Second wine tasted w/ dinner:

Elisabeth Chambellan Vielles Vignes Chateauneuf-Du-Pape 2007

Ruby colored - medium bodied - black cherry, redcurrants, red berries and hint of licorice and leather on the moderate tannin medium finish. RM 88 points.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Rick's Tasting Journal - Fisher Vineyards UNITY Napa/Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

Rick's Tasting Journal - Fisher Vineyards UNITY Napa/Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

Continuing exploration of Mayacamas Mountain cabernet sauvignon, the Fisher Vineyards UNITY is a Bordeaux blend sourced 60% from Napa and 40% from Sonoma.

I discovered this wine, available by the glass at Capital Grille in Washington DC - a nice accompaniment to steak dinner.

This wine is dark inky in color, medium to full bodied - it exhibits flavors of blackberry, black raspberry and black currant with tones of cola, anise, spice and a hint of floral, with moderately firm by dusty tannins on the moderate, soft finish. RM 90 points.

The UNITY blend is 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc, and 3% Malbec.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Tasting Journal - Hidden Ridge 55% Slope Hidden Lot N 1 Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

Rick's Tasting Journal - Hidden Ridge 55% Slope Hidden Lot No 1 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

Medium to full bodied - dark inky color - flavors of blackberry, black raspberry, and plum with tones of mocha, anise, tea and a hint of tobacco box with spicy chocolate, clove and vanilla on a moderate firm tannin finish. The 2007 follows the 2005 and 06 for three blockbuster releases in a row. They're a bit tight and slightly tart upon opening, they need an hour to settle and soften and will be even more approachable the second day. RM 91 points.

This is a product of winemaker Marco DiGuilio. According to the (rear) label, this vintage selection was blended from two exceptional barrel lots from 3 blocks of the Hidden Ridge Vineyard. Nicknamed, the "Impassable Mountain" because it took ten years to develop due to the 55% slope of the ridgetops. The Hidden Ridge Vineyards consist of 21 blocks of cabernet sauvignon in some of the most isolated areas of the Mayacamas Mountain Range along the Napa-Sonoma County line - located at 38 29'50.95 N, 122 34'09.40 W.

We tasted this wine since we just visited the area spending two days on Mt Veeder and one day on Diamond Mountain, along the ridge-tops. Those producer visits and tasting notes will continue to be posted as I pull them together. To that end, we tasted this wine against the Mt Veeder cabernet sauvignon 2006.

I discovered this wine at Morton's at Crystal City, Arlington, available by bottle or by the glass. Over the last year we've enjoyed the 05, 06 and now the '07 vintages there. We also picked up the '05 at BRIX in Napa and tasted at dinner during our Mt Veeder appellation trip which is and will  be chronicled here. This was tasted at Morton's in Arlington Crystal City this week with steak dinner. The Hidden Ridge overpowered the Mt Veeder cabernet sauvignon '06.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Mt Veeder Appellation Trail - Robert Craig Mt Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon

Robert Craig Mt Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon

Part of the inspiration to visit Mt Veeder, in addition to it being one of the last remaining appellations not yet targeted in our focused visits, was our longstanding enjoyment of and appreciation for Mt Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon from Robert Craig. We first met Robert and tasted these wines back at our first visit to Robert Craig during our Napa Valley Wine Experience in 1996, and then again at our Robert Craig featured producer wine dinners in Napa Wine Experience 1998 and again in 1999

Indeed, we have a assembled a vertical collection of this wine dating back to the inaugural release 1993 vintage. 

We tasted releases of this wine with Robert and his crew at the Robert Craig Howell Mountain Harvest Party '09 and during other visits such as our 2008 Robert Craig Vineyards and Winery visit up on Howell Mountain. Needless to say, we're long time fans of Bob and the Craig team and their 'artwork'.
Rick & Bill with Robert at
Robert Craig harvest party

We have heard Robert say on more than one occasion that his favorite variation of cabernet releases is his Mt Veeder selection. Bob's roots are clearly embedded in Mt Veeder where he work for years learning and refining his craft. Hence it was only fitting that our visit to Mt Veeder was only complete when we revisited Robert Craig to taste the benchmark standard bearer for Mt Veeder Appellation Cabernet Sauvignon.


We (at/from left Beth & Bill, Rachel, Linda and I) stopped in at the Robert Craig tasting room near downtown Napa to say hello and recalibrate our tasting palate with the reference standard. We were warmly greeted by Rachel and the staff. We appreciate their hospitality and for affording us an impromptu focused tasting of just Mt Veeder cabs on short notice. It was the fitting finale to our trip. Thank you!

Indeed, as I write/type this, our allocation shipments of the '08 vintage releases arrived just this week. 

Robert Craig Mt Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
Big full bodied, firm forward black fruits, black berry, black cherry, spice, layer of dark chocolate rich, hint of tobacco and cedar on a full firm lingering tannin finish. Perhaps the richest and most complex version yet. RM 93 points.

Robert Craig Mt Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon 2008

Black berry and black cherry fruit flavors, layer of black currant, hint of leather, mocha and cassis on a nicely integrated fine-grained tannin finish. RM 91 points.

85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Merlot, 3% Malbec.

Not only do we continue to enjoy each subsequent release of this wine, but they are getting better with time. We continue to be rewarded by the longevity and ageworthiness of these wines. My tasting notes journal of earlier tasting reviews are posted at

Mt Veeder Appellation Trail - Mayacamas Mt Veeder Winery & Vineyards

Mt Veeder Appellation Trail - Mayacamas Mt Veeder Winery & Vineyards

A visit to Mt Veeder would not be complete without a visit to the legendary Mayacamas Mt Veeder Winery & Vineyards. Founded and operated as a winery going back to the late 1800's, the current owners, Robert and Elinor Travers bought Mayacamas Vineyards back in 1968.

Located up and back off of Lokoya Road in the rugged Mt Veeder highlands located between 1,800 to 2,400 feet.are the mountain Mayacamas vineyards. Consisting of rich volcanic soil the vineyards  produce small grapes with distinctive, intense flavors.

Bob Travers remains the winemaker, producing about 4,000 cases annually, mostly Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, with some Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, and Merlot. About 1,500 cases of Cabernet Sauvignon are made each year - blended with small amounts, 10% to 15%,  of Cabernet Franc and Merlot.  Mayacamas Cabernet Sauvignon is typically best consumed between twelve to twenty five years of age although some vintages will be at or near their best for even longer. Annual production of Chardonnay is about 1,500 cases. The remainder is split between a larger portion of Sauvignon Blanc and then Merlot which is blended with about 10% Caberrnet Sauvignon, with a small portion of Pinot Noir.

Wine flight of current release Mayacamas wines

Mayacamas Wines tasted (and purchased):

Mayacamas Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 

Winemaker's Comments: Deep, brooding blackberry and black cherry aromas, along with a sage-like dimension, on the nose.  The acidity on the tongue balances the surprisingly supple tannins.  Red currants and plums on the palate finish very long.  Will age gracefully for many years. 
Blend: 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc, 10% Merlot  
RM 91 points.

Mayacamas Chardonnay 2007
The nose is tropical - - banana peel, pineapple tart, and a bit of effervescent lemon. on the palate, more lemon character is joined by a hint of white peaches, and the subtlest vanilla. The hallmark fresh acidity is in form here.
RM 88 points.

Mayacamas Merlot 2006

Vivid cherry and plum aromas and shades of bay leaf on the nose. The smooth mouthfeel is enlivened with bright acidity. More cherry in the mid-palate, along with a licorice edge. The finish is long. Very classical in its structure. 
RM 89 points.

Mayacamas Sauvignon Blanc 2007 

Honeydew melon rind on the nose gives way to freshly cut limes on the palate. Diamond-like precision in the acid balance and focused fruit make this a bright, lovely wine to go with shellfish and all manner of seafood.
RM 88 points. 

    Historic Mayacamas Mt Veeder Winery
    Mayacamas wine cellar where small quantities of crafted wines are produced.
    No frills down-to-earth Mayacamas Vineyards tasting room

    Picturesque grounds of the rugged Mt Veeder mountain estate.

    Sunday, March 6, 2011

    Diamond Mountain Wine Experience - Constant Vineyards & Winery

    Diamond Mountain Wine Experience - Constant Vineyards & Winery

    Our visit to Diamond Mountain reached the 'summit' with a visit to CONSTANT Diamond Mountain Vineyard and winery at the top of the mountain, sitting at over 2100 feet elevation. It also is among the oldest wineries in the valley with history dating back to the late 1800's.

    We visited on a completely overcast day and it was spectacular - one can only imagine the incredible vistas on a 'normal' sunny day. It will be worth a return trip to find out. 
    Constant Diamond Mountain Vineyards
    Cabernet Sauvignon

    Sitting at the top of the Mayacamas range, Freddy Constant grows Bordeaux varietals offered under his own Constant Diamond Mountain Vineyard label.  He also bottles Constant Diamond Mountain Queen of Diamonds Shiraz with grapes grown on the only Sonoma vineyard on Diamond Mountain.

    Constant wines tasted:
    • Constant Diamond Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
    • Constant Diamond Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 1998
    • Constant Diamond Mountain Cabernet Franc 2006
    • Constant Diamond Mountain Syrah 2006

    Constant Diamond Mountain hillside vineyards
    as seen from historic winery cottage.

    Constant Diamond Mountain hilltop vista
    with 'infinite' vineyard views

    Freddie Constant telling the Constant
    Diamond Mountain story.
    Picturesque winter vineyard views
    from tasting house

    Constant mountaintop tasting house - cozy even
    on an inclement day.

    Diamond Mountain Wine Experience - Diamond Creek Vineyards

    Diamond Mountain Wine  Experience - Diamond Creek Vineyards

    A trip to Napa Valley Diamond Mountain by the serious wine enthusiast or collector would not be complete without a visit to the legendary Diamond Creek Vineyards. Founded in 1968 by the late Al Brounstein, a visionary pioneer who defied conventions of the time by planting Bordeaux varietals on secluded Diamond Mountain in the Mayacamas Range at the north remote end of Napa Valley.

    Diamond Creek is a case study in terroir - each of its four vineyards with its own micro-climate, soil type and geography that are revealed in their single vineyard designated Cabernet Sauvignon wines - named for their four distinctly different origination vineyards. The vineyards of Diamond Creek are Gravelly Meadow (5 acres - center left), Red Rock Terrace (7 acres front), Volcanic Hill (8 acres opposite), and Lake (¾ acre), plus Petit Verdot (1 acre) to the left outside of frame. The vineyards as pictured below, are amazingly co-located close to each other yet have distinctive individual characteristics that are revealed in their wines.

    The chateau and tasting room offer a magnificent setting and view of the vineyards on the slope and meadow below and of the opposing hillside.

    Diamond Creek offers an elegant tasting experience showcasing their wines harmonized by Diamond Creek cabernet sauvignon reduction with petit beef tenderloin and artisanal cheeses.

    Diamond Creek dinner tasting.
    Thomas Arvid painting above fireplace in background.
    (See below)

    The limited production highly allocated wines amazingly reflect the character of their source site. Boots Brownstein carries on the Diamond Creek tradition.

    Our tasting group with 'Boot's' Brownstein

    Diamond Creek Wines Tasted -

    Diamond Creek Tasting Flight

    Wines tasted -
    • Diamond Creek Red Rock Terrace Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
    • Diamond Creek Gravelly Meadow Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
    • Diamond Creek Volcanic Hill Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
    • Diamond Creek Volcanic Hill Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2004

    What a wonderful opportunity to do a horizontal tasting of Diamond Creek vineyard select wines. There really is unique character revealed in each wine. We each had our favorite - all were spectacular.

    Diamond Creek Art - 

    Another special treat of visiting the winery is to see the legend of Al Brownstein living on in the display of his original artwork (shown below) that was used in the Diamond Creek Thirtieth Anniversary commemorative labels for the 2002 vintage vineyard select cabernet sauvignons.

    Diamond Creek wine painting montage by Thomas Arvid graces the fireplace in the tasting room.
    More on Thomas Arvid art.

    Special wines for special occasions -

    We served a horizontal selection of each Diamond Creek Cabernet Sauvignon from magnums at the wedding of our son Ryan to Michelle Diamond! Several magnums were birth year vintages.

    Diamond Creek horizontal magnum tasting including birth year vintages served at Ryan and Michelle's wedding.
    Bill and Beth Connolly shown above in attendance, served birth-year vintage 1982 Diamond Creek Gravelly Meadow Cabernet Sauvignon from double magnum at the wedding of son Will and Kate Jandl.

    Gravelly Meadow Cabernet Sauvignon 1982 Double Magnum served by Connelly's at Will and Kate's wedding.
    We featured Diamond Creek in a horizontal Napa cabernet tasting dinner held at the Fairmount Hotel in Chicago with Bill & Beth C, and California friends Gigi & Michael P, Andy & Liat, and Phil - who came in to town for the occasion. Also featured were Dunn Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon and Dominus Estate. 
    Gala Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon dinner tasting - Diamond Creek, Dunn, and Dominus

    And yes, there is the actual Diamond Creek. Spectacular settings and views on the vineyard grounds.

     Other vineyard views .....

    Diamond Creek Lake Vineyard

    Diamond Creek Lake Vineyard
    Diamond Creek Red Rock Terrace

    Diamond Creek Red Rock Terrace

    More Diamond Creek Winery Pics on Rick's

    Also see other Diamond Mountain producer Constant Vineyards and Winery blog.